Should I go with cement over concrete for our house remodeling? What would be the perfect choice to remodel our kitchen and bathroom countertops? What is the difference between concrete and cement? These and many questions always come to mind when we are not experts in construction related matters.
Cement and Concrete are world’s most commonly used construction material. However few people are aware of the thin line between these two. If you are one of those who need guidance on what material you should opt for your remodeling or home improvement, here are a few things you should be aware of before you make your selection.
The Basics: Cement and Concrete
Cement and Concrete are the terms that are often mistaken as reciprocals. As for cement, it is a is a powdery substance made by calcining lime and clay, and happens to be a key ingredient in making concrete.
Concrete, on the other hand, is a mixture of aggregates and paste. These aggregates usually are sand, gravel or crushed stone, and paste is water and Portland cement.
Cement makes up about 10 to 15 percent of the total volume of concrete. The aggregates and cement paste are mixed through a process known as hydration, where the mixture binds with aggregates to form a thick mass. This mixture keeps getting harder with time, and process continues for years. Hence, concrete gets stronger as it gets older.
Cement is being used for construction purposes since the Roman Empire, or may be from times before that. So while the use of cement is difficult to track back in history, it has always been used as the binder of other building material.
As the common knowledge goes, during roman times, cement was made with lime and pozzolana, and was used to produce huge structures, like, Pantheon. From then to now, cement’s form and composition has definitely changed. Cement, now, is available in two forms – hydraulic and non-hydraulic.
Hydraulic cement requires water to begin the chemical reaction to start hardening of cement. Once the reactions are completed it forms a water resistance substance. Hydraulic cement is hugely preferred for most of the construction applications, because of its ability to get stronger even underwater.
Non-hydraulic cement is made of substances that do not harden when exposed to water. This inability of non-hydraulic cement revokes its application in wet environment and makes it a poor choice in most of construction applications.
Aggregates are the other major ingredients of concrete construction, in addition to cement. These are the inert granular substances, like, gravel, sand, or crushed stone. These aggregates account approximately 60 to 75 percent of concrete, and can be classified into two categories – fine and coarse.
Fine aggregates are generally natural sand or crushed stones, which have been processed through a 3/8 sieve. The coarse aggregates, on the other hand, are all the remaining particles that are bigger than 0.19 inch in size and have a diameter ranging between 3/8 and 1.5 inches. A major portion of coarse aggregates contains gravel with crushed stones.
Aggregates, like, gravel and sand are generally harvested from a pit, river, lake, or seabed. Crushed aggregates are produced by crushing quarry rock, boulders, cobbles, or large-size gravel. Recycled concrete is also preferred as one of the top ingredient to produce this aggregate.
The Forms of Concrete
On the basis of its applications and property, concrete can primarily be divided into four basic forms:
It is the most common form that includes almost three-fourth of all kinds of concrete available in the market. Ready-mixed concrete is batched at local plants with a pre-set recipe and then delivered by a truck mounted with revolving drums.
- Brings in efficiency in the overall construction process
- Reduces the consumption of cement by 10 to 12%
- Offers versatility in use and methods of application
- Minimizes the risk of human errors and reduces labour dependency
Precast concrete is a product that is produced by casting concrete. This type of concrete is prepared in reusable mold, which is then cured in a controlled environment, transported to the construction site to be used there. Precast concrete products range from concrete bricks, to bridge girders, and wall panels.
- Offers a huge range of colors, textures and patterns
- Naturally mold resistant and reduces the risk of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and off gassing
- Good at sound absorption
- Durable, and low on cost of maintenance
Many products that are made of cement-based materials are also considered to be “concrete” and share many of its qualities. Conventional materials in this category include mortar, grout, and terrazzo. Such cement-based products, including, soil-cement and roller-concrete, are largely used for pavements and dams. Flowable fill and cement-treated bases feature in the list of cement-based concrete.
- Works well even when exposed to water
- Offers a superior performance than any other low cost alternative
- Assigns solid strength to the structure and remains strong even with passage of time
The latest range of advanced products incorporates fiber and special aggregates. These hi-tech concrete products are vastly used to create roofing tiles, shake shingles, lap siding, and countertops.
- Short setting time and requires very small portions of water for hydration
- Lasts longer than most of the other alternatives
- Available in vast range of colors
- Increases insulation in the houses and offers more comfort
If you are remodeling your house or looking for leading suppliers for building material, check out Australia’s online directory for construction material and equipment.